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Did personal finance site Mint.com cave to investor pressure when it sold to Intuit for $170 million? 37signal founder Jason Fried assumes so, and penned a rant on the company’s blog explaining why the sale “really pissed me off.”Why should I care? Because I think it’s indicative of a VC-induced cancer that’s infecting our industry and killing off the next generation. I don’t know the full backstory, but I’d bet this sale was encouraged by a Mint investor.
Here’s a fresh new company that was gunning for an ageing incumbent. And not only gunning, but gaining. They had a great product, great design, and great potential. They were growing rapidly and figured out the revenue game. They were on their way to redefining an industry — one that was left for dead by the current custodians.
They were everything their main competitor, Intuit, was not. While Mint was inventing, Intuit was out of it. People used Quickbooks/Quicken out of habit and legacy. People used Mint because they loved it. Intuit was disgruntled, Mint was disruptive.
But here’s what happened: Intuit, last decade’s leader in personal finance, just became the next decade’s leader in personal finance. Mint had their number, but they sold it for $170 million. A big payday for sure, and if that was their two-year goal then they nailed it, but I can’t believe that was the point behind Mint. It had too much potential.
Mint was a key leader of the next generation of game changers. And now it’s property of Intuit — the poster-child for the last generation. What a loss. Is that the best the next generation can do? Become part of the old generation? How about kicking the shit out of the old guys? What ever happened to that?
Most of the commenters on the 37signals blog agree with Jason’s take, writing things like, “this is a really really good post,” but there were a couple interesting rebuttals.
One was from Union Square Ventures partner Fred Wilson:
I agree with you that the objective should be to build a great independent company. I said so much in “number 2” in my 10 characteristics post.
But I would bet the VCs did not push this. I am a VC and i’ve been one for 26 years now. I have never forced an entrepreneur to sell their company if it was succeeding, and clearly Mint was.
This smells to me of a young founder facing the prospect of making enough money at an early age that their life will be changed forever and not being able to resist it.
That’s why Joshua Schachter sold delicious (bad move) and why Stuart and Caterina sold flickr (another bad move). I can go on and on, but you get the point.
I could be wrong, but that is how I read the news when i saw it.
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